Williams excited by new challenge with Wales
Wales Sevens coach Gareth Williams might be forgiven a wry smile. When the draw was made for this USA Sevens tournament - a tough one for Wales - he was standing alongside Paul John as assistant coach, but between then and now John has departed and the responsibility of steering the course here rests firmly on his broad shoulders as head coach.
A group assignment against Port Elizabeth champions South Africa, Kenya and Canada is about as tough as it gets on an opening day of a Sevens tournament, but Williams is relishing the task and ready to meet it head-on.
"It's quite a physical group, first day's going to be interesting but it's a challenge the boys are quietly excited about and they've trained well over the fortnight and hopefully that's enough to get through a very tough group.
"South Africa are coming off a tournament win, the form side in the Series, offer a huge physicality but with a cutting edge; Kenya - you just know the phyiscality they will bring and we've got to match that, try and pressurise them when they've got the ball and respect the ball when we've got it; Canada, we're always in tough battles with them, came off second best in the Gold Coast but had an excellent win in PE, so a very physical weekend, no doubts about that, but we know what we want to achieve in every facet of the game."
In the five years that he has been involved with the Wales Sevens set-up as assistant coach, he has seen players come and go, and climb up the ladder to achieve caps with Wales and the Lions. And Williams now retains high hopes that the side can continue to provide that kind of springboard.
"The Sevens is a great environment for boys to develop and we've had a number of players that we've had for five or six tournaments and they've gone on and excelled. Justin Tipuric stands out as one, Lloyd Williams another, and many more names.
"The hybrid of developing and performance I think can continue, it's a case of drawing up a strategy that allows it to work effectively. We've got a number of top quality Sevens players in our core group of players and their experience can help players coming through the development pathways to accelerate into the national side. It's how we manage it that's the key."
One of those experienced players, Lee Williams, is missing through injury, but captain Adam Thomas is back to lead the side under the new coach, who himself represented Wales at Under 16, 18 and 21 level and played for the Sevens side for four seasons, including as captain.
This, however, seems to be his greatest honour and one he feels ready for.
"It's a great opportunity for Paul (John) and I'm just fortunate I've been given the chance for Las Vegas and Wellington to lead the team. I've been assistant coach now for five and a half years so I feel more than ready for the challenge.
"There's a huge excitement and some nervousness as well, which is part of the reason why I enjoy coaching. It'll be great to get the boys out there after the amount of work we've put in and see how they do respond."